Black and Jamaican activists at the vigil for the slain Jamaican gay leader
”Jamaica’s Prime Minister PJ Patterson shares responsibility for the wave of homophobic violence, culminating in the murder of Brian Williamson”, said British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“His government gives credibility to anti-gay prejudice by enforcing the ban on homosexuality and by doing nothing effective to tackle homophobic hate crimes”.
Mr Tatchell was speaking at a memorial vigil for Brian Williamson outside the Jamaican High Commission in London tonight, Wednesday 23 June 2004, organised by the gay rights group OutRage!.
“Patterson is a coward. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu say homophobia is as bad as racism. When will Patterson show similar moral leadership?
“Why won’t Patterson speak out against the torrent of gay bashing attacks? Why won’t he scrap Jamaica’s colonial era anti-gay laws?”, asked Mr Tatchell.
The London vigil was attended by members of the black and gay communities, including gay Jamaican asylum seekers who have fled to Britain to escape murder in Jamaica.
Lead speaker at the vigil was Lee Jasper, black rights activist and race advisor to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. He attacked the Jamaican government for “criminalizing homosexuality and violating gay human rights”.
People attending the vigil held placards with the slogans: “Jamaica: Stop killing queers”, “Gays murdered. Patterson does nothing”, Jamaica: repeal ban on gay sex”.
Many in the crowd also held photos of Brian Williamson, emblazoned with the words: Born in Jamaica, Lived in Jamaica, Murdered in Jamaica….Gay hero! Jamaican hero!”
”Since Brian Williamson’s murder, the climate of homophobic hatred and violence has escalated”, said vigil coordinator Brett Lock of the gay rights organisation OutRage!.
According to a statement sent to the vigil by the Jamaican gay group, J-FLAG, since Williamson’s murder: “There has been a heightened sense of fear amongst the gay community, and….a violent backlash on the streets against gay men….J-FLAG has received an increased number of threats and reports of violence against gay people”.
Other speakers at the vigil included Darren Johnson the Green Party member of the London Assembly, Carol Budd of Amnesty International, Charles Anglin of the black group Big Up, Andrew Prince the Jamaican-born editor of UKBlackOut, and Barry O’Leary of the Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group, which helps gay Jamaican refugees.
The London Gay Men's Chorus sang “Let my people go”, in tribute to Brian Williamson and in solidarity with all lesbian and gay Jamaicans.
Afterwards, flowers were laid on the pavement outside the Jamaican High Commission.
Several gay Jamaicans who attended the vigil accused the Jamaican police of pursuing a “vendetta” against the gay community.
"The Jamaican police have consistently failed to tackle homophobic hate attacks. Most of the killers have literally got way with murder. The police are themselves accused of beating up lesbians and gay men. Many gay Jamaicans describe the police as 'gay bashers in uniform'", said Mr Lock.